As the sun sets on the fall, go to Keeneland October 29, Balnikhov makes every second count with captivating effort spent Spirit and Classic pavement in the $271,088 Bryan Station Stakes (G3T) to claim his first victory at this level.
The 3-year-old gelding son of Adaay trailed the majority of the 12-horse field from the start in 11th by fractions of: 23.05 and: 46.72.
Approaching the final corner in 1:11.87, Spiritwho ran fifth, started his bid for the front and got a header ahead at the stretch. Axthelm had stayed comfortably fourth down to second place behind Wit under the encouragement of Luis Saez.
Close to the wire, it was Balnikhov who swung six wide of the rest of the field in 1:23.65 to challenge favorite Wit until the final moments and eventually got a neck in front to win the one mile turf in 1:35.48.
Led by jockey Tyler Gaffalione, who earned his sixth stakes score of the competition, Balnikhov ($15.28) improved his record to 5-3-2 from 14 starts and increased his earnings to $398,343 for owners Little Red Feather Racing, Madaket Stables and Former Bones Racing Stable.
Wit was second and Axthelm was half a length for third.
“It was a crazy trip, how Tyler Gaffalione did it, he’s a magician,” said Billy Koch of Little Red Feather Racing. “Thanks to Sol (Kumin) from Madaket and John Panagot. They picked this race, they really wanted the distance, and they thought he would run well here at Keeneland.
“They get a lot of credit for that decision and credit for the horse and Phil D’Amato being a turf sultan.”
Coming up against several proven horses, Koch said the group was not deterred from racing the gelding.
“We had a lot of confidence in this horse and when you have confidence in your own horse you go there and obviously you have a great respect for competition and they are very beautiful horses, but we knew that we had a very beautiful horse. coming up I felt good,” Koch said.
Gaffalione, who finished the Keeneland encounter with six wins on stakes and 20 overall, was just one win away from winning the top jockey title which went to Saez with 21.
The jockey says he enjoyed the ride on the gelding which came to Bryan station after a fourth-place finish at Del Mar in the September 3 Caesars Sportsbook Del Mar Derby (G2T).
Tyler Gaffalione and Balnikhov after winning the Bryan Station Stakes at Keeneland
“I want to thank relations for this opportunity. It was great fun to ride. Also Umberto Rispoli (who rode Balnikhov at Del Mar in his previous two races) – he helped me a lot, telling me how to ride the horse. It worked well,” Gaffalione said.
“Man he’s got a toe turn. All I had to do was find space. I wanted to get out but they were spreading out. A spot opened up inside and I followed Joel (Rosario on Ready to Purrform) and I was able to find space.”
Balnikhov was a $31,899 purchase by Oceanic Bloodstock of Ellon’s consignment at the September 2020 Arqana Deauville yearling sale. He was bred in Ireland by T. de La Heronnierre and Gestut Zur Kuste AG outside the first defense Leeward mare who also has a 2 year old sioux nation foal and a yearling El Kabeir filly.
Video: Bryan Station S. (G3T)